When it comes to the topic of JFK’s assassination, I am sure every curious individual has his/her own theory.
Whether Lee Oswald actually shot him or was just made a scapegoat by the authorities, etc, etc.
This is exactly the basis of Stephen King’s novel, 11/22/63.
Since the trailer of Hulu’s original series based on this novel, has recently been released, I thought it might be a good time to review the book and speculate what to expect from the J.J. Abrams series, starring James Franco.
In the book, King tackles the subject of time travel, and the possibility of changing the past and altering the present, quite deftly. The plot is fairly simple.
The protagonist, Jake Epping, a teacher, decides to go back in time to stop Lee Oswald from assassinating JFK in 1963, after his friend finds a time-travel portal behind his diner, and in doing so, hopes to change the course of the future.
The twist in the tale, which I thought, made this story somewhat different from other time travel stories is that, every time someone enters the portal it’s always 1958, and no matter how many years they spend in the past, only two minutes pass by in the present. So imagine going back in the past, spending 5 years there, aging normally in the process, and then coming back to the present, grey-haired and wrinkled, where only 2 minutes have passed since you left.
Pretty horrifying prospect, according to me.
While Jake‘s escapades between the late 50’s and early 60’s are quite exciting to follow on most occasions, it’s his incessant stalking and spying on Lee Oswald and his wife Marina, which I found to be tedious to an extent, where I literally jumped pages (something which I rarely do) to reach the last, important part of the book.
Seriously, this book could be easily cut down to half it’s actual size, and it would still remain relevant and be much more fast-paced. So that’s one bit that I am really hoping the makers of the TV show have altered enough to make it more intriguing for the viewers.
Also, though Stephen King has the knack of writing very entertaining and interesting main characters, I found Jake Epping to be quite dull at times. But I am trusting James Franco to make the character more likeable and relatable on screen. His love interest Sadie Dunhill, on the other hand, was quite distinctive and easy to like. Their love story was quite unusual but pleasant to read about. Between the years 1958 to 1963, Jake builds a life with Sadie, and even alters some events related to some people from the present.
After reading all this, if you feel I am describing a book from some other sci-fi author and not the horror master, Stephen King, trust me, I had the same doubt almost throughout the first half of the novel. But just when I was beginning to look at the cover of the book to confirm whether I was actually reading a Stephen King novel, there came a series of graphic scenes which assured me I was in King‘s territory. Suffice it to say, while the build-up towards the climax is often laden with irrelevant incidents which do nothing but fill the pages, the ending itself is quite satisfying.
The last bits of the book have the signature style of Stephen King, and leave you feeling bittersweet. It’s not something very unexpected, but will still leave you feeling perturbed by the turn of events. Simply put, the ending does not disappoint.
Even though it is not a horror story as such, 11/22/63 still has some thrills and chills packed within it (JIMLA?! *shudder*). Which means, if executed well, the TV series could actually turn out to be very exciting and gripping for fans of the author as well as the genre.
And if you are a Stephen King fan, this book should be on your reading list simply because of the way he combines subtle supernatural elements with the subjects of time travel and JFK‘s assassination, never mind the lack of the kind of horror quotient he is famous for.
As far as the TV series is concerned, I think and hope that the combined talent of Stephen King, J.J.Abrams and James Franco will give us something worthwhile to actually invest our time and money in. The series will premiere on Hulu, on 15th February 2016. Here’s the short trailer.
If you are a reader and wish to start exploring the works of this thriller master, 11/22/63 is not the book to start with. Instead, you should try Duma Key, The Shining, Pet Sematary, Carrie, or Misery. These are packed with horrors which will guarantee long-term nightmares. ( I am assuming that’s what you are looking for, if you wish to start reading Stephen King)
My rating for 11/22/63– 3/5